When you look around many public places, like shopping malls, school yards and restaurants you will notice that people are not engaging with the world around them; not even with the people they are with. People, of all ages, staring into their laps fully enthralled with what is happening in cyberspace via their cell phones. Everyone, millions of people, from adults to elementary school age children have a cell phone. With the development of smart phones the popularity and commonality has sky-rocketed. When one looks many have began to ask the question, “could cell phones be addictive?” The consensus for many is yes; others defend that the convenience and efficiency of having a cell phone with them at all times is more beneficial and not addictive, but necessary in the modern world. The debate continues and likely will continue for some time. However, after reviewing the available research it becomes more than obvious that there is an issue with addiction to cell phones. When used in excess it can lead to very serious psychological, social, physical, and, entirely, avoidable consequences, including injury and death. Given that reality, the issues of cell phone addiction, from children to adults, is potentially so severe that it requires greater dedicated study and proactive addressing of the problems of cell phone addiction.
No one is denying that technological advancements have added beneficial elements and innovations within human society. However, that does not mean that it cannot be misused or overused. Too much of a “good thing” can ultimately, prove to be a bad thing. In the article “Mobile Phone To Youngsters: Necessity Or Addiction, “ for the African Journal of Business Management, in 2011, explains that people do not treat their cell phones as a tool or as entertainment; but as a necessity of life, like food, water and shelter. That is not a healthy perspective and mirrors the mentality of people suffering from a drug addiction. Everything becomes less important and without the subject of their addiction they cannot function (Ahmed & et. al 12513).
The consequences of this addiction are starting to become a serious problem that is difficult for many people to accept. While cell phone users are reluctant to admit negative symptoms of excessive phone use, one study, “Measuring Problematic Mobile Phone Use: Development and Preliminary Psychometric Properties of the PUMP Scale, for the Journal of Addiction, in 2013, shared that, while not a unanimous response, many did admit that they felt that their engaging in their cell phone was having a negative effect on their social and family lives (Merlo and et. al. 1-2). Another localized study at college campuses discussed I the article ““The Invisible Addiction: Cell-Phone Activities And Addiction Among Male And Female College Students,” for Journal of Behavioral Addictions, in 2014, that showed that college students, both male and female, spend at least 9 hours a day or more engaged with their phones (Robertson and et. al. 260). We see every day the way that people are dependent upon the life they lead in social media, which they have access to 24 hours a day and seven days a week via their phone and they may include a number of visible symptoms.
Psychologically users, particularly, young users may place a great deal of importance on the opinions, positive or negative that they need in their social media posts. Many of these posts are negative in nature; some may be incredibly judgmental and others terribly cruel. This can be damaging to young people’s self esteem and self image, as explained in the article “Students’ Cell Phone Addiction and Their Opinions,” for The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, in 2014 (Jones, 74). Some of these cases have resulted in serious cyberbullying; sadly in many cases cyberbullying results in acts of self harm and, even, suicides. If cell phones and the access that they provide can result in someone’s death then questioning the influence they may have is imperative.
The endless fixation with cell phones is having a damaging effect, literally impairing the social skills of people. Becoming accustomed to interacting so often through their cell phones that when placed in “in-person” social situations they struggle and could even be defined as socially awkward (Hyman 1). It can be seen in many people, especially among youths. During the developmental years children can be warped with lifelong cell phone addiction. As stated, the interaction on social media is often not positive yet they continue to rely upon it, much like a drug.
One of the most significant symptoms is the level of self harm that has and continues to occur because of that dependence, even when it is detrimental to their health. Talking on the phone, texting and engaging in phone use while doing high risk tasks, like driving, has over the last few decades has proven that the use of cell phones are a total distraction and can lead to impaired reactions times and, in many cases, fatal accidents (Hyman 1). Operating a motor vehicle is so common that people often fail to remember that it is a serious piece of equipment that requires one’s full attention. However, Deborah Hersman explains, in the article “Cell Phones: A Potentially Deadly Addiction,” for The Huffington Post, in 2015, people continue to interact with their cell phone, with a false sense of security that they can “multitask” and refuse to acknowledge the potential danger of what they are doing (Hersman 1). This is, also, an indicator of people suffering from an addiction.
Most people cannot admit how dangerous cell phone addiction could be because they do not want to change the behavior. All the same, proof of that danger and personal disregard can be seen recently in the news (Hersman 1). Just a month or so ago a women was walking along the street, while texting and she stepped out into traffic; she was nearly hit. Not long ago, a man was attempting to get the perfect “selfie,” with his phone, where the ocean and horizon were framed behind him. So completely committed to needing to get the perfect photograph and post it to social media that he stepped off of a cliff and fell sixty feet to his death on the sand below. Not unlike someone with a drug addiction, where people do things without realizing the possible danger.
Again, there is a debate that occurs between those who are attempting to warn about all of the dangers of cell phones dependence and those who disagree. People refuse to admit that using one’s cell phone can be dangerous, it is necessary. These defenders swear they would never have a car accident, never misstep into traffic or fall off a cliff. These things could never happen to them. These are exactly the excuses used by someone addicted to a substance, like alcohol and drugs. They justify their need, they defend its value and rely or an example, like everyone else is doing the same, which is not a valid argument for any discussion (Hersman 1). It is the response that so many people have when someone suggests they give up their phones for even a short time that really shines the brightest on the reality of cell phone addiction; many refuse the thought even under the heading of “proving they are not addicted” and still will not relinquish them.
Again, no one is insinuating that cell phones do not have a place in modern society, but that use should not ever be the number one priority in one’s day or life. Cell phones do provide easier connections and entertaining activities, which can be highly beneficial (Kowalski 1). However, the cell phone should not be used as an alternative to physical interactions and activities. Modern cell phones do make it very easy to encourage a sedentary lifestyle; after all everything can be done with the push of a button or voice command. That said a life with limited socialization and lack of physical activity can lead to a being antisocial, but, also, physically unhealthy (Hyman 1). This could include health issues, like obesity, among children, teens and adults all over the country and around the world. Again, continuing to do something that will inevitably have an unhealthy effect on their psyche, social life and body is, also, something we see with people with other types of more traditional addictions.
That said people with drug addictions, deny the problem, make excuses to justify their behaviors when criticized. They want to do what they are doing because the feelings and the “high” that it gives them. They want to be doing all of the things that “everyone is doing” and believe that legitimizes the fixation that many addicts have (Hersman 1). Given all of all of the research available this description could be describing someone using heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines, or they could be describing millions of people and their cell phones. The wide-spread addiction to cell phone use is not an unsolvable problem. In fact, it is one of the most avoidable and preventable of addictions. But it will require the time being taken to teach people, particularly the young, the difference between real life and cyber life, that the phone should not be their priority and that it should be used and tool, a form of entertainment, but not a staple necessity in one’s personal, business and social life. Like any addiction people will have to take the time and energy to break that connection and move beyond the addiction.
Like all technology, the cell phone that people have become so dependent upon today can be a beneficial tool or an entertaining activity, but should never become an integral and needed part of perpetual focus and involvement of all the hour of one’s day. The relationship that many people are having with their cell phones shares many of the same characteristics associated with people suffering drug addictions. People do not want to be separated, they need the validation, ‘the fix,” of being on their phones, they defend its use, deny that it could ever effect them negatively and refuse to accept the possibility that cell phones can be so distracting that it could actually contribute to their death; these are similar behaviors and attitudes associated with addiction. In the end, it seems clear that the addictive nature of cell phone use is becoming a serious problem that is being under-addressed. However, the literature on the subject seem to share the idea that the cell phone addiction has been adequately proven and proactive measures and intent should be aimed to help rectify this problem. Fortunately, for many, cell phone addictions, like most addictions, can be treated and behaviors can be changed. Again, like any addiction it can be overcome. The pursuit of these ends appears to be highly serious and amply worthwhile to dedicate more studies to this modern day phenomena.
Ahmed, Ishfaq, Tehmina Fiaz Qazi and Khadija Aijaz Perji.” Mobile Phone To Youngsters:
Necessity Or Addiction.” African Journal of Business Management. 5.32. (2011): 12513- 12519.
Hersman, Deborah. “Cell Phones: A Potentially Deadly Addiction.” The Huffington Post.
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Hyman, Ira. “Are You Addicted to Your Cell Phone?” Psychology Today. (2013): 1. Web.
Kowalski, Kathiann. “Watch out: Cell Phones Can Be Addictive.”Student Science. (2014):1.
Web. < https://student.societyforscience.org/article/watch-out-cell-phones-can-be-addictive>.
Jones, Tessa. “Students’ Cell Phone Addiction and Their Opinions.” The Elon Journal of
Undergraduate Research in Communications. 5.1. (2014). 74-81.
Merlo, Lisa and et. al. “Measuring Problematic Mobile Phone Use:
Development and Preliminary Psychometric Properties of the PUMP Scale.”
Roberts and et. al. “The Invisible Addiction: Cell-Phone Activities and Addiction Among Male
And Female College Students.” Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 3.4. (2014): 254–265.